How confident is Disney that critics love “Captain America: Civil War”? Enough that a few days after giving them leave to post early reactions on social media, they’ve opened the gate to full-bodied reviews from a select handful of publications, several of which call “Civil War” the best Marvel movie yet. As “Civil War” — very minor spoiler — deals with the collateral damage of the Sokovia-shattering climax of “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” another common theme is the comparison to “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” in which, no surprise, Cap and co. finish way ahead of the Man of Steel and his Gotham buddy. (Not surprisingly, this has BvS fans grumbling once again about bias.)
But if “Civil War” is Marvel’s best yet, that’s not necessarily an unbridled compliment. Several critics point out that there’s still some headroom between “Marvel’s greatest movie” and a great movie, period, and Mashable’s Josh Dickey, for one, wonders if this may be as good as Marvel can do — that is, if “Civil War” is not only Marvel’s best yet, but the peak from which future movies may well recede. Nonetheless, it’s clear that the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s world-building has paid off, with more than a dozen well-defined characters circulating through the new movie and two new ones added to the mix: Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-man, both of whom will get their own movies in the next couple of years as well. That also means viewers who haven’t kept pace with the MCU may at times feel out of their depth, but it’s hard to believe there are too many potential “Civil War” viewers who fall into that category anyway.
Reviews of “Captain America: Civil War”
Dan Jolin, Empire (five stars)
Popular on IndieWire
“Captain America: Civil War” is the best Marvel Studios movie yet. There, we said it. First, and most importantly, it does what the best Marvel films do: juggling multiple characters so each is allowed its moment in a story that pushes forward the series’ overall continuity, while also forming and concluding its own cogent plot. So here Scarlet Witch (Elisabeth Olsen) wrestles with the consequences of her immense power; Vision (Paul Bettany) starts getting to grips with being ‘human’; Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) finds herself torn when the battle line is drawn; and supposed retiree Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) just can’t stay out of the fight.
Jen Yamato, Daily Beast
“Captain America: Civil War” marks a watershed moment in the vaunted annals of comic book cinema: finally, a big budget superhero sequel that manages to be both effortlessly entertaining and utterly sobering, instead of just one of those things—or, as we’ve endured too frequently in the past, neither of them. (Looking at you, “Batman v Superman.”) It’s a good sign for Marvel’s Phase 3 that “Captain America: Civil War” manages to strike a perfect tonal balance while exploring more sobering real-world parallels. A feeling of urgency permeates the proceedings, as if the Avengers are reckoning with a moral debate that will determine who they are and how they act in the coming films. It’s time our superhero movies thoughtfully questioned the casualties of war and peace, what happens when emotion and ego overshadows the big picture, and the lasting ripple effect of grief and how we never really get over the loss of loved ones.
Justin Chang, Variety
Not every globe-trotting action movie is self-critical enough to acknowledge the many lives that are presumably lost when buildings blow up and cars flip over. And while the idea of collateral damage was certainly central to the conflict in “Batman v Superman,” that film ultimately banished any sense of ethical responsibility — and any lingering audience goodwill — with its bombastic and incoherent end-of-the-world climax. Whatever apocalyptic associations its title may generate, “Captain America: Civil War” turns out to be an infinitely smarter piece of multiplex mythmaking, blessed as it is with a new villain (played with unnerving subtlety by Daniel Bruhl) who has more on his mind than blowing human civilization to smithereens. And the sides-taking showdown between Team Captain America and Team Iron Man, far from numbing the viewer with still more callous acts of destruction, is likely to leave you admiring its creativity. This clean-burning cinematic engine may qualify as a peak Marvel experience, but it isn’t a transcendent one; transcendence simply doesn’t factor into the calculations of a franchise dedicated more to its long-term survival strategy than to the quality of any individual chapter. “Captain America: Civil War” doesn’t break the mold; it burnishes the brand, and sets a high but not insurmountable bar.
Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter
Call it “civil war” or call it brand extension; call it a “cinematic universe” or a corporate behemoth — the latest Marvel extravaganza furthers the studio’s cross-pollination of action franchises in a way that’s sure to satisfy devotees. Posing serious questions about violence and vigilantism while reveling in both, “Captain America: Civil War” is overlong but surprisingly light on its feet. It builds upon the plotlines of previous Avengers outings, bringing together known marquee quantities and introducing the Black Panther and a new Spidey in winning fashion.
Russ Fischer, The Playlist (A-)
Arriving so quickly on the heels of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” there’s a temptation to treat this Marvel sequel as a rebuttal to DC’s recent effort. The pitched battle between two primary heroes, set against the backdrop of a world concerned about super-powered accountability, is remarkably similar. However, the two films are couldn’t be more different in their perspectives and methods. ‘Civil War’ is effective thanks to a focus on character, with the film’s extended roster serving to explore and underline absorbing ideas about family, friendship, and the use of power. As big as this movie is, “Captain America: Civil War” thrives on a smaller, human scale. Striking and consistently engaging, the Russos deftly craft compelling blockbuster entertainment out of a a moral and emotional conflict, and that’s more impressive than any overblown display of loud and vulgar power.
Josh Dickey, Mashable
“Civil War” is the most humanized Marvel movie to date. Here you will find the cleanest, most infectiously watchable superhero action that modern moviemaking can afford: big, high-stakes fights with clarity you can easily track across the screen, but also narrative purpose, with wild humor beats and heavy blows that actually move the story along. Those elements, combined with some delightful surprises — and yes, those meaty and meaningful debuts for both Black Panther and Spider-Man — give us what may be the best Marvel movie we’re ever going to get.
Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
As is often the case with Marvel movies, “Civil War” can’t help but feel weighed down by the larger franchise obligations, the filmmakers having to spend time explaining away absences — in this case, the Hulk and Thor — and making room for new characters who will expand what’s commonly known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And so Tom Holland arrives to play Peter Parker, the nerdy Queens teen who fights crime as Spider-Man — which will set in motion a reboot of that popular character — while Chadwick Boseman comes aboard as the acrobatic Black Panther. The Russos do an impressive job administering Marvel’s brand maintenance quickly and efficiently, but there remains a mild frustration that, in order to fully invest in “Civil War’s outcome,” one needs to be familiar with about eight previous films to glean different characters’ complicated history.
Todd VanDerWerff, Vox
In many ways, Civil War is the fullest expression of Marvel’s idea of essentially creating a giant TV show that we all tune into every six months or so. As the latest “episode” of that show, the movie shifts relationships in interesting ways and offers several major payoffs, while also laying track for movies to come (much more gracefully than, say, 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron”< did).
William Bibbiani, Crave
“Captain America: Civil War” may exist to make all of Marvel’s superheroes fight each other, and that might even have been fun enough in a vacuum, but after watching a dozen films featuring these characters, their every punch now carries a meaningful weight. They’re fighting over philosophies, over the plot, or over nothing at all. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that these are people we know and love, fictional though they may be, and they are trying to hurt each other and we want them to stop. But only after a few minutes because when they fight it’s really cool.
Mike Sampson, ScreenCrush (8/10)
If the idea of watching even more superheroes punch each other after “Batman v Superman” feels like a chore, let me assure you this film could not be more dissimilar. While slightly overlong, this movie is bright, creative, insightful, affecting and, above all else, fun. Here’s how enjoyable “Captain America: Civil War” is: Much has been made about Spider-Man returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe after a few disastrous movies over at Sony Pictures. Hell, I have written a lot of those articles over the years. I was acutely aware that Spider-Man would be making his debut in this movie alongside Captain America, Iron Man and the rest of the Avengers. Yet midway through the movie, I was so invested in the film, when Spider-Man shows, it was a legitimate surprise. “Civil War” is so entertaining that I actually forgot Spider-Man was coming. It’s like enjoying a delicious meal and then the chef reminds you that was just the first course.
Mike Ryan, Uproxx
“Captain America: Civil War” feels like a pinnacle for Marvel. Like, I can’t imagine their movies getting any better. This feels like the crescendo. This feels like the movie this series has been building towards for eight years. After all these movies, Marvel earned this fight. This is the best Marvel movie so far. This is not hyperbole. I have my doubts they can make anything better. This is as close as things come to “superhero movie perfection.” This movie made me really happy.
Dave White, The Wrap
Corporate filmmaking with an enormous economic investment at stake has the power to force creative people to operate within the art-destroying prison walls of a marketing strategy. But the Marvel Cinematic Universe, an empire building itself on a foundation that roughly amounts to a house style, tends to stay relatively on balance. Screenwriting team Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (responsible for the previous two “Captain America” films) efficiently move plot blocks into place and check off interlocking points of order, but they do so while never forgetting that their characters are more than brands to build.